Chef's Recipes

Lemon polenta cakes with pistachio nuts and mascarpone

These small cakes pack a mighty punch. Soaked in lemon syrup and topped with mascarpone frosting, they're a taste of Sicily in every bite.

By Jaclyn Koludrovic
  • Serves 10
  • 20 mins preparation
  • 40 mins cooking plus soaking, cooling
Lemon polenta cakes with pistachio nuts and mascarpone

This recipe is inspired by chef Jaclyn Koludrovic's travels through the south of Italy, where a love of citrus and sweet treats reaches great heights.

"Sicily is synonymous with citrus, in particular lemons and oranges, and some of the best pistachio nuts in the world come from the island, too," says Koludrovic. "I love playing with this recipe using the best citrus I can find, especially blood oranges, Meyer lemons and bergamot, when I'm lucky."

Ingredients

  • Olive oil spray, for greasing
  • 200 gm softened butter
  • 200 gm caster sugar
  • Finely grated rind of 3 lemons
  • 200 gm almond meal
  • 100 gm fine polenta
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs
Lemon syrup
  • 75 ml lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
  • 75 gm (⅓ cup) caster sugar
Mascarpone frosting
  • 150 gm mascarpone
  • 150 gm thickened cream
  • Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
  • Scraped seeds from 1 vanilla bean
Candied pistachio nuts
  • 50 gm pistachio nuts
  • 2 tbsp simple sugar syrup

Method

  • 1
    Preheat oven 170°C. Grease ten 5cm metal ring moulds and line with baking paper, ensuring paper is twice as high as the moulds (cakes will rise quite a lot). Beat butter, sugar and lemon rind in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on low speed until smooth, being careful not to aerate mixture (2-3 minutes). Mix almond meal, polenta and baking powder in a bowl, then beat 2 tbsp polenta mixture into butter mixture. Add eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate between additions, then fold in remaining polenta mixture. Transfer batter to a piping bag fitted with a wide, plain nozzle and pipe into moulds to just below the lip. Bake until golden, well risen and firm to touch (18-20 minutes).
  • 2
    For lemon syrup, bring lemon juice and sugar to the boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cool briefly. Poke holes in cakes with a skewer, then pour warm syrup over them (make sure the syrup isn't hot or the cakes will break down). Soak cakes until ready to serve.
  • 3
    For mascarpone frosting, whisk ingredients in a bowl to firm peaks (1-2 minutes). Refrigerate until required.
  • 4
    For candied pistachio nuts, preheat oven to 150°C. Soak nuts in sugar syrup in a bowl (5 minutes). Drain, then spread nuts over a tray lined with baking paper and bake until golden and crunchy (15-20 minutes; the oil in the nuts means that while warm they're soft, so cool a couple to test for crunch). Cool completely, then coarsely chop.
  • 5
    Remove paper from cakes, pipe mascarpone frosting generously on top and serve scattered with chopped candied pistachio nuts. Cakes are best eaten the day they're made.

Notes

These cakes can be made in advance and frozen, unsoaked and unfrosted, for up to three months, or refrigerated for up to a week.

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  • Author: Jaclyn Koludrovic